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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Barkley wants to be example of Christcomment (0)

July 3, 2014

By Bill Sorrell

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Barkley wants to be example of Christ

The sounds of triumph heard by Matt Barkley were not in the Los Angeles Coliseum but 7,000 miles away where a football is a ball, not an oval.

While on a trip to Nigeria in December 2010, Barkley, his family and three friends visited orphanages, widows, a center for handicapped men, worked construction projects and went to a prison where they played soccer with inmates.

“It was nothing too crazy. It was low risk,” said Barkley, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles and former University of Southern California (USC) quarterback.

During a barbecue-style Christmas party, the warden announced that one of the prisoners was going to be set free. “We prayed for him that everything would go well once he was out,” Barkley said. 

While stopped at a military checkpoint three hours from prison, Nigerians approached Barkley’s vehicle.

“When people see that you are white, they want to sell you things, trinkets. This man started approaching the van. We just assumed he was trying to sell us something. He was shouting, ‘Pastor Ray, Pastor Ray,’ the missionary who runs the prison ministry. We were kind of astonished. How does this guy know Pastor Ray? It was pretty random,” Barkley said.

With a victorious voice, the man said, “I played soccer with you in prison. I’m not an inmate now. I am free. I have made it home safely.”

Barkley said, “That was a wonderful image and a God-story to us. We were only there for an hour or two but he remembered us. ... You go overseas on missions trips and you are just gone for a week or so; you sometimes don’t think you are going to have an impact. God was working in that situation. We did have a lasting impact.”

Full of joy

Nigeria, the world’s eighth most populous nation, impacted Barkley. He saw poverty and sadness in the faces of people whose family members had been killed during war or by disease.

However, in the midst of the pain and struggle, he saw something else.

“The kids had the most amazing attitude. They are full of joy, full of gratitude for every little thing,” said Barkley, whose family gave away hygiene kits, soccer balls and toys.

“It gives you a new perspective on what we have in America and what we take for granted,” he said. 

Since becoming a Christian at age 10, Barkley has experienced his own freedom. “I don’t believe life has any meaning if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ. That He offered my sins on the cross is a freeing feeling,” he said.

Barkley has received a gift. His ability to play football and be successful is a gift from God, he said.

While a junior at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., Barkley won the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award, the first time a junior was chosen.

Playing from 2009–12 at USC, Barkley set the all-time career passing records for the school and the Pac-12 Conference. He threw for 12,327 yards and 116 touchdowns. Barkley surpassed USC  Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. 

Barkley, who had 1,592 career completions out of 2,593 attempts, was favored for the Heisman Trophy his senior year in 2012 but the Trojans, ranked No. 1 at the beginning of the season, lost five games. As a junior he was sixth in Heisman Trophy votes.

The Trojan’s first-ever three-time captain, Barkley won the Wuerffel Trophy in 2012. The trophy is given to the player who combines athletics, academics and community service. Barkley had a 3.11 GPA and majored in communications. In 2011 he was named to the AFCA Good Works Team, which is comprised of players recognized for their commitment to making a difference in their communities.

Barkley was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award three times.

In 2011, he was the College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Year, third team Associated Press All-American and semifinalist for the Manning Award, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award.

Beginning the season in 2011, Barkley set the USC single game record for completions with 34 against Minnesota. On Oct. 1, 2011, against Arizona, he passed for 468 yards, a USC single-game record. On Nov. 4, 2011, he set the USC single-game record for touchdowns in a game with six against Colorado. When he was a freshman at USC, he was the first true freshman to start an opener for the Trojans.

Former USC coach Lane Kiffin used the word “elite” to describe Barkley. When Kiffin coached there, he said he “looked forward” to “big” years from Barkley. 

Barkley wanted to leave USC, which has won 11 national championships, as one of the “best quarterbacks” who had played there. 

“I don’t want to have any regrets when I am done playing football. Knowing the platform as USC quarterback, I can use that for good or for bad. Obviously I need to use it for His kingdom and God’s glory,” Barkley said.

“I don’t think of myself as a football player who happens to be a Christian. I am more a Christian who plays football.”

 Former Trojans quarterback Mark Sanchez, who played with the New York Jets, is teamed now with Barkley on the Eagles. Barkley (6 feet 3 inches, 227 pounds) was drafted in the fourth round as the 98th overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.

As a rookie, he completed 17 of 26 passes for 158 yards. He is vying to be a starter this season.

Although he grew up in Southern California, he doesn’t surf but loves to snowboard. The gifts he treasures most are “timeless” family items that once belonged to his father, grandfather or great-grandfather.

When it comes down to life, he wants God’s will. “It’s not my will but Thy will be done,” he said.

As he reads his favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 3:5–6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight,” he realizes that he must trust.

In praise bands at church, Barkley has played the electric and acoustic guitar. He still likes to play “the old six strings.”

One of the churches he attended in Southern California was Rock Harbor Church, Costa Mesa.

Growing up his parents, Les and Bev Barkley, took him to church. He calls them “wonderful examples of what it means to follow Christ.” They started the Monarchs for Marines (M4M) when Barkley was at Mater Dei. Coaches, students and parents cleaned up and landscaped youth areas at Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton.

Life lessons

Barkley’s mother taught him the value of delayed gratification. Hard work now pays off later is a “life lesson that I hold on to,” he said.

His father, who lettered four years in water polo at USC and was a second team All-America in 1979, taught him “what it means to be a man,” Barkley said. “He has been a great example. ... He always challenged me to be the best.”

Admiring former Green Bay, Seattle and Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck who is now with Indianapolis, Barkley described him as a “difference maker,” something Barkley strives to be.

“I want to be an example of Christ. I want to live as God instructs in the Bible and be a servant of Jesus Christ,” Barkley said. “We need to serve. We need to give back. I don’t believe anything I have is mine. Every good and gracious thing comes from above. God can use me to do whatever He wants.”  

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